County of Santa Clara Public Health Officials Announce Local Indoor Masking Requirements Will Remain in Place and Provide Updated Criteria for Lifting COVID-19 Indoor Masking Requirements

February 9, 2022

The County anticipates lifting indoor masking requirements in a matter of weeks

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department announced today that it will not lift local indoor masking requirements when the State lifts its indoor masking requirement on February 16.  Instead, Santa Clara County will continue to base decisions on whether and when to lift indoor masking requirements on the risks posed by COVID-19, using clearly defined metrics related to vaccination, hospitalizations, and COVID-19 case rates.  Los Angeles County has likewise announced it will not immediately lift its local masking requirement.  The County anticipates that it will be able to lift indoor masking requirements in a matter of weeks, as case rates continue to decline.

The County previously announced metrics for lifting local masking requirements in October.  Today, the County Public Health Department announced that it had updated its prior metrics, which were adopted when the Delta variant was circulating in the community, to reflect the fact that the current Omicron variant poses less risk of severe illness and hospitalization than Delta. Specifically, the County’s prior metrics required that the 7-day average of new cases be approximately 150 or below based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “moderate” criteria.  The updated metrics allow indoor masking requirements to be lifted when the County’s 7-day average of new cases is 550 or below for at least a week.

The County has already met one of the three metrics for lifting the indoor masking requirement—that 80% of all County residents are fully vaccinated. The two remaining metrics are not yet met.  The local indoor masking requirement will be lifted when the remaining two metrics are met:

  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in the jurisdiction are low and stable, in the judgment of the health officer; and
  • The 7-day average of new cases per day is at or below 550 for at least a week.

While overall case rates have declined significantly since their January peak, COVID-19 continues to circulate widely, and case rates are still higher than at any other time in the pandemic prior to the January Omicron peak.  The County’s current 7-day average case count is 1,922 cases per day, which is in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highest level of community transmission.  Hospitalization rates likewise remain high, and are not yet falling.

The State will be lifting its universal indoor masking requirement on February 16th.  However, State health orders will continue to require universal indoor masking in many settings after February 16th, including all K-12 schools, childcare facilities, public transit, healthcare facilities, shelters, jails, and long-term care facilities.

“We must continue to base our decisions on the risks COVID-19 presents to our community, and we look forward to lifting the indoor mask requirement as soon as we can do so without putting vulnerable people at undue risk,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director of Public Health for the County of Santa Clara. “In the meantime, we need to continue to do what’s needed to keep our community protected. Universal indoor masking is critical to protect our community, especially community members who are older or immunocompromised. Continuing to mask indoors should also allow our case rates to continue to drop quickly.”

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